Up Up Down Down: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda has a rich history as one of Nintendo's prized franchises. Over the years, the series has evolved quite magnificently, going from a revolutionary 8-bit exploratory adventure to a 16-bit marvel and ultimately becoming a legendary 3D epic. Of course, the argument could be made that Zelda has seen very little evolution as of late, with both Twilight Princess (a personal favorite) and Skyward Sword (a personal not-so-favorite) failing to make great strides. That's changed with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, a game that's surprisingly novel and fresh despite the fact that it's set in a previously established world.
Let's take a look at the things that make this Zelda quest one of the best in recent memory, as well as a few missteps that don't exactly do it any favors.
Up Up: Item renting is a cool new mechanic
In the past, you discovered new items in every dungeon. Powerful bombs, your trusty bow, and the iconic boomerang were all placed in different dungeons and temples, ready to be collected at the most convenient moments. Things are different now, as you can pay a small fee almost immediately at the start of the game to rent these items. Dying means you lose everything, but paying the fee again lets you obtain items once more. You can eventually purchase them, but whether or not you choose to, it's still cool that you can utilize most weapons right from the get-go.
Down Down: Turning into a painting isn't especially interesting
The other big new mechanic introduced in Link Between Worlds is Link's ability to become a moving painting on a wall. Unfortunately, the novelty of this gameplay element wears thin fairly quickly. That's not to say that it's a bad gameplay decision. Simply put, there's not much to it, and aside from being used to discover secrets and get across otherwise impenetrable areas, it's no different than doing something similarly basic like crossing a bridge or using an item to open up a passageway.
Up Up: Open-ended design
Being able to use almost any item from the start is tied to the open world design of Link Between Worlds. Rather than forcing you into a linear sequence of dungeons, you're allowed to visit most areas on the map and take on the various dungeons in any order you desire. At first, only a few dungeons are open — which you can also tackle in any order — but later on, more appear on your map, and you can visit these in whatever order you wish, as well. It's a refreshing change of pace and a welcome bit of openness.
Down Down: Dungeons may be too short for some players' tastes
There are quite a few dungeons in Link Between Worlds. Even then, you're bound to get through them quite rapidly. You could essentially get through the entire game in about 15 hours, which is a lot shorter than other Zelda games, even if you skip the side quests. Personally, I enjoyed the flow of the dungeons, because even though they're smaller, they're crammed with puzzles and challenges to constantly tackle. Of course, there are bound to be some players who enjoy lengthier dungeons, and for those people, the brief nature of Link Between Worlds could potentially be off-putting.
Up Up: Revisiting the world of Link to the Past is pretty cool
It's no secret that Link to the Past is one of the best entries in the Zelda series. Not only is it a riveting game, but it's better than even some of the more recent games. That's why getting the chance to revisit that wonderful, magical vision of Hyrule is so great. Not only does it tug at your nostalgic heartstrings, but it's a great setting worthy of a new adventure. It's strange that even though you've probably already seen a lot of this world before, it's still really fun and exciting to explore all over again.
Down Down: Still not as good as Link to the Past
Link Between Worlds had a lot riding on it. After all, it's a follow-up to the legendary Link to the Past, so expectations were certainly high amongst fans. Admittedly, for as great as this game is, it still doesn't top the classic SNES adventure. It does a great job of capturing a lot of that same magic, and it provides another great quest, but even then, Link Between Worlds is no Link to the Past.
Up Up: Graphics are nice and 3D effect is the best on the system thus far
My adulation of 16-bit graphics notwithstanding, I was instantly won over by the new graphical style of this game. In all honesty, it's not about whether this game looks as good as Link to the Past, because its visuals are something new for the series. That old world that we fell in love has been recreated in a rich new art style that's absolutely fitting. In addition, the 3D effect of the 3DS is tremendously superb. This is easily the best use of stereoscopic 3D on the handheld thus far.
Down Down: Uninteresting characters
What I love about Link Between Worlds is that it did what Skyward Sword failed to do: It went in new directions and introduced new gameplay features. Sadly, the one thing both games suffer from is a poor cast. Like its Wii predecessor, this game just doesn't have a strong roster of NPCs. Sure, you meet some of the series' most recognizable names — and I actually really liked Yuga — but there's just a total lack of personality. Personally, I miss great, deep characters like Saria and the Happy Mask Salesman.
Left Right Left Right: Link Between Worlds is the Zelda game we've needed
The Zelda series has suffered from a lack of evolution lately. While Link Between Worlds doesn't necessarily go in an abundance of wild new directions, it offers enough substantial newness to make it feel rewardingly fresh. Enough new gameplay elements are introduced to the series to create an adventure that's rife with that sense of discovery that's been absent for so long. Not everything is great, but a few minor missteps along the way hardly detract from what is an otherwise pleasant, jovial tale. This is the Zelda game we've so desperately needed for the past few years.
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